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1 Watt & 1/2 Watt Amps.....

ac/dcfan87

Member
Messages
800
They're used for low volume applications. Home/bedroom playing to get the power tube(s) to saturate without getting super loud.
 

jamesie

Member
Messages
644
i use it for practice, play alongs and so on - sometimes for quiet (acoustic for example) sessions too

it´s a marshall dsl1-c
 

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
29,202
Even a 1/2 watt can be darn loud! Think about this, a 50w amp is twice as loud as a 5 watt amp, which is twice as loud as a 1/2 watt amp. In fact the difference between a 30w amp and a 1/2 amp is about the same as the difference between a JBL speaker (102 dB) and an old CTS (94 dB). You don't get the bass or clean tone you would with a bigger amp, but all the volume and distortion you could ask for!
 

Promit

Member
Messages
2,481
They originally cropped up as very cheap tube practice amps. This was circa 2005, before cheap tube amps were actually a regular thing and making them inexpensive required real dedication to cutting back. You get the Blackhearts, the Valve Jr, etc from this time period. At some point they transformed into an insane boutique thing where people started designing extremely expensive non master volume amps which could saturate power sections at home volumes. This arguably culminates in the series of Marshall 1W reissues that we've seen over the last few years.

Neither of these things has any relevance to modern circuits, frankly. Companies have more or less cracked the code on inexpensive full featured tube amps, and the savings you get from the smaller power sections (often $100 or so) are arguably not worth the immense loss of power and flexibility. Simultaneously, most modern circuits are not designed to rely on power tube saturation. It's a practicality issue and we've had good preamp based saturation for a few decades now.

I know someone's going to take offense at my post, but the long and short of it is that the micro amps are toys. They're only relevant to the at-home-with-too-much-money crowd. H&K can attenuate a 20W output down to 1W and even line level without destroying the sound. We have a lot of really good sounding preamps, and some of these are systems that have been used frequently in professional environments. We have very high quality attenuators for not THAT much money. Bringing back the old style power tube saturation and cutting the power to the bone is a step backwards. These tiny power sections don't even saturate nicely. Sorry, but a 12BH7 running flat out sounds awful.

The best part is some of the builders have the nerve to label these as "recording amps". If you're recording and you can't let a normal sized amp breathe a little bit, just go to digital with some decent IRs. It will sound better than the micro heads.
 

andersmv

Member
Messages
562
I agree with a lot of what you're saying, but at the same time there are some quality lower watt amps out there. Just because it's lower wattage does not mean that the parts are cheaper. It's unfortunate because it's going to cost most companies just as much to make a small wattage tube amp as it's going to cost them to make a 15w or 30w. I just put a deposit down on a Matchless Baby (5w Matchless). That little amp sounds KILLER and after playing it for about 5 minutes, I knew I was going to sell my Matchless Avalon to get it. I don't play in a band and I'm a recording engineer that needs something to record with and play at home. That Baby is one of the best amps I've heard (In my very biased opinion, it works great and was the sound I was looking for). It's almost $2K for a 5w amp, and I'll admit that's ridiculous. But, it sounds awesome, I instantly bonded with it and it serves any purpose I need it for. Matchless is not overcharging for the Baby, it just costs them as much to make it as it does a 15w Spitfire (Which is basically what the baby is, a lower watt spitfire). It's a great buy for me IMO and I have the money for it right now. I realize it's a horribly expensive little amp and not for most people. That's probably the reason Matchless is not making them anymore though....
 

Teleplayer

Moder8er
Staff member
Messages
20,182
Interestingly, if I want lower volume with one of my amps, I turn it down. However, when I need/want "the tone" when playing with my band or even at home, I have it on tap, turn it up and have tone for days.

I only have one MV amp. Would rather turn volume way down and goose the front end with a good boost pedal to drive the tone at low volumes. IMHO, I would simply rather have bigger iron, more power and tunes cooking, and more speakers on tap when I want them.
 

Darth Federer

Member
Messages
334
They originally cropped up as very cheap tube practice amps. This was circa 2005, before cheap tube amps were actually a regular thing and making them inexpensive required real dedication to cutting back. You get the Blackhearts, the Valve Jr, etc from this time period. At some point they transformed into an insane boutique thing where people started designing extremely expensive non master volume amps which could saturate power sections at home volumes. This arguably culminates in the series of Marshall 1W reissues that we've seen over the last few years.

Neither of these things has any relevance to modern circuits, frankly. Companies have more or less cracked the code on inexpensive full featured tube amps, and the savings you get from the smaller power sections (often $100 or so) are arguably not worth the immense loss of power and flexibility. Simultaneously, most modern circuits are not designed to rely on power tube saturation. It's a practicality issue and we've had good preamp based saturation for a few decades now.

I know someone's going to take offense at my post, but the long and short of it is that the micro amps are toys. They're only relevant to the at-home-with-too-much-money crowd. H&K can attenuate a 20W output down to 1W and even line level without destroying the sound. We have a lot of really good sounding preamps, and some of these are systems that have been used frequently in professional environments. We have very high quality attenuators for not THAT much money. Bringing back the old style power tube saturation and cutting the power to the bone is a step backwards. These tiny power sections don't even saturate nicely. Sorry, but a 12BH7 running flat out sounds awful.

The best part is some of the builders have the nerve to label these as "recording amps". If you're recording and you can't let a normal sized amp breathe a little bit, just go to digital with some decent IRs. It will sound better than the micro heads.
Geez man. I love how you've thrown in class warfare to this thread about small amps. I've got news for you, unless you're a paid professional, all gear are toys. It doesn't matter if it's a full 100 watt stack or a 1/2 watt amp. Also, I love your blanket statement about how all small amps sound awful. Looking at the gear in your signature, I'm really glad our ears hear things differently. What's good tone to you might be horrible tone to someone else. I was playing my JMP1 until about 3:00am last night in my small condo. If you think it's practical and sounds better to have a 100 watter, a 4x12 and an attenuator then more power to you but I've tried that and the results weren't nearly as good as my 1-watters. If you like to listen to a 100 watter on 1 all the time then that's great. Others might like something else like a 1-watt amp.
 

Darth Federer

Member
Messages
334
Interestingly, if I want lower volume with one of my amps, I turn it down. However, when I need/want "the tone" when playing with my band or even at home, I have it on tap, turn it up and have tone for days.

I only have one MV amp. Would rather turn volume way down and goose the front end with a good boost pedal to drive the tone at low volumes. IMHO, I would simply rather have bigger iron, more power and tunes cooking, and more speakers on tap when I want them.
Yes well getting noise complaints from your neighbors doesn't sound like a main concern for you so I'm guessing you're not the target market of low wattage amps.
 

flcmcya

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,472
Cool factor .... 1 watt firefly does mini Jtm 45......

flick the boost switch.... mini HBE.... :omg
 

jbt7764

Member
Messages
1,192
There are so many good ones out there. We were hoping that The Unleash would inspire players to utilize them in band situations. Amps like the At Mars, Star Nova, Corso and on and on would be available for serious gigging.

I think one of the problems that people run into with the small watt amps is that they are playing through speakers that are rated at 60,80 or 100 watts. You have to get the cone moving a little to really hear the potential of what they can do.
 

Tim Plains

Member
Messages
6,140
My Red Iron Lil' Mo is awesome. The only tube amp I can actually turn up without pissing off the wife when she's home working. The Yamaha THR-10C responds well enough to your playing (I have one of those, too) but not quite as good as a tube amp. No other small SS amp I have tried responds well in that regard but I'm sure that will change in the next five years.

Also, I love your blanket statement about how all small amps sound awful. Looking at the gear in your signature, I'm really glad our ears hear things differently.
+1. I wouldn't touch any of that gear listed nor would I trash talk it like he just did.
 

Aquinas

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,772
Having spent a lot of time and effort recently in developing a new 1-watt amp, I have to say that a lot of the "information" in this thread is really colored by design decisions that builders of ultra-low-power-amps have made up until now. What I mean is that most (if not all) 1-watt amps that I found when doing my due diligence for my project made extreme compromises in their designs, for any number of reasons. The fact is that there is no technical reason that a 1-watt amp can't sound and feel as good as a big-iron amp. Here's some of the things I've discovered (personal observations - feel free to disagree):

  1. Most 1-watt amps don't use the same sorts of signal paths and gain structures that big amps do. This applies as equally to the "boutique" ultra-mini amps as to the offerings from mainstream companies. They either cheap out and use solid state designs with minimal tube involvement or have an extremely simplified circuit, I have to assume because they think that the majority of the sound people are looking for comes from distorting the power amp.
  2. Those that use an extremely simplified circuit can sound really, really good, just like a larger amp with an extremely simplified circuit. They also have the drawbacks of those simple larger amps - namely, extreme limitation in variety of sound. This doesn't work for a lot of "modern" players, and they tend to not get why anyone would like something that fundamentally couldn't work for them.
  3. With all due respect to John, the speaker efficiency problem can be compensated for in a number of ways. I have yet to see a design that actually does so. That being said, there is a problem of perception - that is, people think that 1 Watt into a modern speaker will be "quiet". That isn't the case. 1 Watters need a good master volume as much as bigger amps!
  4. Many of the designers of the ultra-low-wattage amps have a similar attitude to Promit - they think of them as toys, and design their feature sets around that fact. There is no technical reason to do so, and no technical reason that they should - it is just a bias, based [IMHO] mostly on the fact that the really great amp designers tend to be older, and have a tendency to think of "the good old days" as the goal...
    (take that one as you will)
  5. It is actually just as difficult and expensive to design a good 1 watt amp as it is to design a good 15 Watt amp. It is not as expensive to build such an amp, as long as the builder is willing to actually take the cost-cutting measures that one can when designing such a product. Take cabinets, for example - there is absolutely no reason for a 1-watt amp to have a big wooden cabinet, outside of a combination of nostalgia and marketing. Or you could look at the magnetics - the transformer needs of a 1 watt amp are quite different than those of a bigger amp, yet most of the 1-watters on the market use off-the-shelf iron. Why? A combination of lack of design experience (most designers aren't comfortable designing transformers) and cost-conciousness (most builders aren't building enough to make custom iron cost-effective). What I mean by this is that with "proper" design, you can get the actual costs way down without having a sonic impact on the product - but it isn't easy.
  6. Users have existing prejudices to what a "Ultra-Low-Wattage Amplifier" should be, and that makes it difficult for designers to think outside the proverbial box. There is no reason one couldn't take one of their larger designs, high-triode-count and all, and shrink it down to a 1-watt size. It would require redesigning parts of the circuit to make it respond the same, and that might require rethinking the assumptions they may or may not have about the causes of certain sonic phenomena. It also might require some creative thinking to retain the characteristics of the larger design, creative thinking that goes beyond a simple downsizing. Both of those things may make it more difficult to market, mainly because guitar players have a tendency to equate certain things with certain sounds, whether or not those things are related in any scientifically way (power tubes come to mind). In other words, it is hard work and you've got a good chance of getting laughed at...
  7. In the last few years, several "budget" low-wattage amps have popped up that have used extremely misleading marketing techniques. These amps, while not necessarily sounding bad, are by far the most accessible of the 1-watters - and their misleading marketing has led many to assume things about the class as a whole which are simply not true!

I'm not trying to sell you on my new project - I haven't even mentioned it by name - but I have a real problem with the number of people who pop up and spew absolute crap about things that they have no idea about. I don't think it is their fault - they have bought into what the "consensus thought" is about guitar amps, which has been so pervasive as to become dogma - but it is quite irritating when one has an idea of the kind of work and creativity that goes into creating these kinds of products.

The fact that most guitar players are extremely dogmatic and "orthodox" (for lack of a more descriptive term) also plays into this greatly. Did Jimi Hendrix play a 1-watt amp? Does Slash? And so on. People are so enamored of the past that they want to simply capture what came before - and people's wants and actual requirements often don't agree with their preconceived notions. Marketeers know this. They target based upon it. And that targeted marketing has led people to believe things that have no basis in reality - and designers to play into those beliefs, thinking that it will help their products sell better. And so the cycle continues...
 

Promit

Member
Messages
2,481
What's good tone to you might be horrible tone to someone else. I was playing my JMP1 until about 3:00am last night in my small condo.
The JMP1, and most of the Marshall 1W RI amps, are a bit of a curiosity because they're recreations of amps that are extremely impractical for home practice. That said, I think a JMP1 sounds pretty bad (and not very much like a JMP) and I can think of a few solid state amps I'd rather have in a practice situation. (Pathfinder and Blues Cube, primarily.)
If you think it's practical and sounds better to have a 100 watter, a 4x12 and an attenuator then more power to you but I've tried that and the results weren't nearly as good as my 1-watters. If you like to listen to a 100 watter on 1 all the time then that's great.
The amps I listed in my sig are 20W, 50W, and digital. Frankly I'm quite tired of the 50W and the digital board and they're both on sale. (I also have an 18W build but that's a different ball game all together.) My 20W has proven to be useful and produce a sound I like from volumes I can barely hear to gig volumes and beyond. Lucky me I guess.
Others might like something else like a 1-watt amp.
People are free to like whatever, but Aquinas makes a lot of good points about the design issues in low wattage amps.

The point I'm trying to make is this: if you step away from the past and start with a clean room design that is intended to sound its best at a wide variety of volumes, it's perfectly possible to design power sections that are dual EL84 or even larger and companies have done it. Whether you want to use a master volume, B+ scaling, output attenuation, or a combination, it can be done and it can be done well. I have yet to hear a 5W or less amp that I thought sounded particularly pleasant when pushed. I much prefer the sound and feel of a choked down 20W master volume amp. And I know there's people on here who think 20 is too small too.
 

Dale

Member
Messages
10,314
I really like my Killer Ant. It is relatively quiet. It takes pedals well and records very nicely.
 

drbob1

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
29,202
Paul, we ALL know what you're talking about! And it should be a killer solution at a very reasonable price. I have to give a shout out to my man, Kurt Emery here. His amps run from 2w to 8w to 15w, so it doesn't quite make it in under the 1w margin, unless you can find an old TAD adapter from Smicz (which will run a single ended amp at 1/4w IIRC). But you CAN completely change the sound of the amp from clean (use a big rectifier for no sag, a low gain preamp tube like the 12AU7 and a big power tube like a 6550) to scream (long plate 12AX7, a 5Y3 and a 6K6) at 2-6w. Great tech and decent prices!
 

illinimax

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
1,594
My Cornell Plexi 7 sounds glorious in its 1 watt setting. Louder than you'd expect, great for cranking it up at home or practice.
 

signine

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
334
:horse

Whatever sounds good to you sounds good. My DSL1 sounds awesome. A Mesa Mini-Rec would have cost me more, and maybe would have wounded as good at the volumes I need it to be at. Any number of attenuated amps with "real" power tubes could have maybe approached the same.

I didn't want "maybe." I don't need big. I have SS modellers. I don't like them as much. I have a Vox Lil Night Train, it was much louder, and I rolled tubes till I liked how it sounded. I don't like how it sounds as much. Hate the way the Blackstars sound.

You think your turned down/attenuated big iron sounds better at bedroom/apt-friendly volumes? Good for you! Want a cookie? I disagree and love my dinky lil one watters, and I'll gladly buy up the ones you don't buy.
 






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